I played two OTB games last night. The score was 1-1, but in both cases, I should have won comfortably. I was up a queen in one game for crying out loud. My inability to crush my opponent lead me to analyze my current state of chess developement. Which I will now share with my readers (right!), by creating this long rambling post detailing my development as chess patzer.1. The fog of war
Ahh, My very first chess games.. During this time I have a totally myopic view of the board. The only thing that I see is the enemy king, and the piece I am using (usually the queen) to attack it at the moment. Its like there is this fog over the board. Paying absolutely no attention to my opponents moves, I only see the board one sector at a time. My games usually ends with my opponent gently nudging me to say mate. I would react in complete surprise and woudnt even know how that happened. Of course I never even saw what he was doing. I am too busy attacking the king with my queen.
Mr. Heisman calls this flipcoin chess. This lasted for a few months. After never even winning one single game, I started to get angry and decided to do something about it. This led us to the next phase2. The Positional Maestro (The age of blunders)
I started to do speed book collecting. Mostly about positional play. The very first book that I've read - Capa's "Chess fundamental" was allegedly for a beginner. Did I just miss something? because it was totally over my head. At that time of course I didnt think so, I actually thought it was too basic. Reviewing the pages now displays how stupid I was. So I have to forget being the next petrosian then?
It was at this time that I read a book of Max Euwe that will alter my thinking. The book "Judgement and Planning in chess" would teach me positional concepts. Sure I've read capa's book and Mr. Weeranmantry's "Best lesson of a chess coach". But something about Mr. Euwe is different. My play started to have plan. Attack on the enemy king lessens in significance. I started to pay attention a little to my opponents moves. Not that I did anything about it because I was still all about my own plans. I have no defensive awareness. Prophylaxis? What is that? Isnt that what dentist's do? Hakt Ptew!
This is also the age of blunders. Sure I have a plan, I even succeed once in a while, but most of my games is decided by a blunder. I often place my piece to where it can be taken.
After studying so hard everyday, I started to win. But I was not satisfied. Surely I should be able to crush my opponents right now. Look at them, how ugly their moves are. They have no plans, just mindless wood shifting. And did he move his queen too early, Hah! surely I would win for I have a plan..
But the blunders, ohh the blunders..
After many-many books, the situation has not improved. I feel stronger than before, sure, but I was not winning more. This positional thing has taken me as far as it can. Try to do something different.3. The Opening theoretician
At this time I would have given a anything to stop blundering. I know, I'll choose an opening system and memorize all the variations. After all, if Id already memorized the moves how was I going to blunder?
I choose the open defense to the ruy lopez. Tarrach said it was the "only" correct defense to the ruy. So I played thru games after games of grandmasters. Memorizing variations, etc.. etc.. Problem is, I couldnt really memorize enough. OTB, I forget the lines, or my opponent goes out of book early.
After 50 games without noticing anything significant, I decided to drop this also. My head is getting too full of variations. Memorizing such things makes me loose my appetite for chess. At this stage, I only see one variation per move. Generating the variation tree is beyond me. Again, this isnt working, time to try something else. 3. Mr. Blindfold Player
I am now resigned to the fact that I am doomed to blunder. Forget about it, GM's also blunder, why not me? I rationalized.
So I disengaged from trying to eradicate blunder, and turned my attention to one of my other weakness - board vision. The fog of war has lifted somewhat. But not yet to my satisfaction. Ok, so I'm gonna increase it, but how to do it? Well since I've done so much memorization already, memorizing again doesnt seem too much. I'll just memorize the board. And then play games thru my head.
I have another reason for learning this. People at work is starting to notice that I am occupied with chess. Hey, dont look at me like that. I am not the first person to neglect his professional duties for the darned game. Anyway, learning blindfold chess is perfect. Now, who woud've thought that I am staring at program codes - all the while thinking about chess? Hehe.. Sorry, I know this is wrong but cant help it. This has become a disease really =<
But I also didnt see any significant improvement in chess strenght. Something is missing. But I actually think blindfold chess is cool, so I wont drop it. 4. Back to fundamentals
So I've tried everything. How about tactics? We'll Ive already gone thru 303 chess puzzles and some other puzzles here and there. So I didnt really think doing 1000+ is necessary. Let alone memorizing something again. But of course seeing games of Mr. Nezh changed my mind (See previous posts). I need to be a master of tactics if I am to play like him. No, not a master, more than that. I should be so lucky.. But If I'm gonna have a goal, why not something high? Mr. Wonderful, grand high mystic ruler of tactics sound good doesnt it? Me and my delusions =>. I hope my readers doenst take too unkindly to this. After all we all need our fantasies.
So here I am now I'm at 500+. I hope to complete the training by March. Although I havent yet set any date like MDLM and the others have done. Something to do about goals not deadlines. Anyway, playing two games last night highligted some my remaining weaknesses which have to be tackled if I am gonna go play to the level that I want
1. Calculation - This is a direct result of the tactics training. Now, I rarely feel the head-pressure that I talked about. I seem to see the board better too. Of course this may have something to do also with blindfold chess?
2. Tactics - I see more tactics than ever before. This enables me to recover from inferior positions. During the positional era, One misstep and the game is over. I also see more variations per move than before. From time to time I am starting to find escape moves. I even defeated the 8-year old Josh Waitzkin personality in CM10. He may be just 1600, but boy, did he cause me grief. So take that little bugger. Hah!
1. Calculation - No this is not a typo. This is a strenght - when I use it. But I dont nearly use it often enough. I should be able to out-calculate my opponents by now, If only I'd do it every move. I must learn to calculate, calculate, calculate.. Laziness have something to do about it.
2. Prophylaxis - I think I must start acquiring this habit. I noticed that the emphasis of my move selection is all about attack. But I won 2nd game last night when at a critical moment, I suppressed this instinct and played a prophylactic move. This is a very hard thing to do. All my senses are urging me to go forward. I have a hard time thinking this way. Attack is fun, Playing prophylactic moves seems to be boring. But I may have to acquire this to win. "Adventure - a jedi cares not about this things".
3. Emotion - I lost the first game because at the cusp of winning, My emotions got the best of me. Partly I got impatient. But mostly my emotions overruled my sense. My heart is beating too fast that I lost all objectivity and rushed my reply. One more prophylactic move (Here it is again, this word) and everything would have been over.
Right now, blunders still bothers me. But if I let it bother me too much, I'd end up going batty. I'll just concentrate on working on my prophylactic play from now on to distract my mind. Who knows, I may even end up minimizing blunders? Ahh, if only it were that easy to break habits. Who will win between my habits and I? "We will engage in battle, and then we will see - Napoleon"